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How only child Lucy Letby who was ‘suffocated with love’ became a cold murderer

Lucy Letby: Cheshire Constabulary share footage from arrest

Only child Lucy Letby wept tears in court over her treasured cat companions Tigger and Smudge – sent away for adoption when she was arrested – but had no pity when she killed defenceless babies again and again.

Every day loyal parents Susan and John Letby came to Manchester Crown Court to sit in the public gallery, opposite the victims’ families and support their daughter – never believing her capable of such horrors.

But how did such a cold, calculating angel of death – described by senior investigating officer Det Chief Insp Nicola Evans as a “beige” personality – come to be convicted on August 18, 2022 of the murders of seven babies and the attempted murders of six more?

Her life began shrouded in love. Letby was born in Hereford on January 4, 1990 to furniture salesman Mr Letby, then aged 44, and accounts clerk Mrs Letby, then 29.

Young Lucy grew up doting on her pet cats and watching Disney movies – she still kept her Snow White ornament in her home – and revealing her career dream said: “I have always wanted to work with children.”

READ MORE Nurse accused of killing babies cries in dock as she gives evidence

Having completed her A-levels at a local sixth form college she went on to study nursing at the University of Chester – to the immense pride of her doting mum and dad.

She told the court she carefully chose A-levels in order to take those “which would best support that career”, ending up moving away as she became the “first person in her family to go to university”.

But her trial heard that Mr Letby, now 77 and Mrs Letby, 63, came to “hate it” when she did not return home after her graduation and that made her feel “constantly guilty” – despite their “suffocating” love.

Messaging a friend who joked about emigrating to New Zealand, Letby stressed: “I couldn’t leave my parents. They would be completely devastated. Find it hard enough being away from me now and its only 100 miles.

“I came here to uni & didn’t go back. They hate it & I feel guilty for staying here sometimes but it’s what I want.”

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Letby told another friend: “My parents worry massively about everything & anything, hate that I live alone etc.

“I feel bad because I know it’s really hard for them especially as I’m an only child, and they mean well, just a little suffocating at times and constantly feel guilty.”

During her studies she went on numerous work placements, with the majority at the Countess of Chester Hospital, either on the children’s ward or the neo-natal unit.

She started working full time there from January 2012 as a Band 5 nurse and three years later qualified to work with infants who needed intensive care, adding: “I always strived to go on every course possible to be the best I could.”

Initially, Letby lived in the on-site accommodation at Ash House before moving to a flat in Chester in April 2014. In June 2015 she returned to Ash House and then moved into her home in Westbourne Road, Blacon, on April 6 2016.

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In the period she was said to have been intentionally harming babies at work, Letby had an “active social life” with salsa dancing classes a particular favourite. A regular gym goer she was also a member of a local pub quiz team.

Letby enjoyed holidays with friends and in the summer of 2015 was among revellers at a colleague’s hen party in York before she attended the wedding later that year.

She admitted she was in fine health during the period she was accused of murdering children, although in 2015 was diagnosed with optic neuritis, an eye condition caused by nerve inflammation which can cause pain and blurred vision.

Letby received treatment at the Countess and also at the Walton Centre in Liverpool before the issue was “resolved”.

Then in June 2016 she confided to a doctor colleague about having an underactive thyroid, telling him: “I’ve been hypothyroid since I was 11, having blips last 12 months, just increased dose again to see if that does the trick…last time it was increased I was over treated & had tremors etc..”

The day of her first arrest in Chester, in July 2018, Letby had returned from a family break to Torquay – where the trio would go three times a year – and her dad was staying with her.

But at 6am came a loud knock at the door and officers piled in – telling the stunned nurse she was being arrested on suspicion of multiple counts of murder and attempted murder, handcuffed and taken to a Cheshire Police station.

Further arrests followed in June 2019 and November 2020 when she had moved back in with her parents in her home city of Hereford.

By now she was on anti-depressants after her mental health deteriorated and she was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

She later explained: “It was just the most scariest thing I’ve ever been through. It not only happened once, it happened twice and a third time. It’s just traumatised me… I’m very sensitive to any noise, any unexpected change or new people. I am easily startled, easily frightened of things.”

Letby was allowed by the judge to settle into her seat when she gave evidence over 14 days – before members of the public and the press were allowed into court – and after each evidence session the public gallery was cleared before prison officers returned her to the dock.

Letby endured a three-hour round trip from HMP New Hall in Wakefield and would get up at 5.30am to be at court on time. She said she had been in four prisons since she was charged in November 2020.

Before the jury was sworn in to start the trial last October Letby was left “incoherent” and couldn’t “speak properly” after being moved from HMP Bronzefield in Surrey to HMP New Hall on the Friday afternoon before the trial.

She found the move “traumatising” as none of her possessions initially came with her – during the trial she walked into the dock each morning clutching a purple blanket, a pink blanket and a file of paperwork.

When her defence barrister Ben Myers KC asked her “How much did you value being a nurse?” She replied: “Massively. It was everything. My job was my life. My whole world was stopped.”

“Everything has completely changed. Everything about me and my life, the hopes I had for the future, everything has gone. I had a very happy life.”

With police still without a motive for her actions, the riddle of why she changed her happy life for one of a cold-blooded murderer may never be known.

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